The No Shopping Challenge (How to Do It Right)

It’s called a “No Spend” or “No Shopping” Challenge, but it all comes down to pretty much the same thing: reduce spending by cutting out some or all non-essentials. There are a variety of reasons you might want to take on a challenge like this: to save money and pay down debt, to save up for a vacation or other goal, to reset your personal budget, to minimize the clutter in your life, or to pursue a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

Whatever your reason for taking up the challenge, don’t be surprised when you find yourself closely examining and questioning your reasons for spending money. This examination shouldn’t result in shame; it should help you refocus and appreciate what you find most valuable and worth spending your hard-earned money on.

To make the most of a No Shopping/Spend Challenge, here are seven rules to follow.

  1. Decide your ultimate goal for taking on the challenge. This will help you measure your progress and success. Having a “why” behind your challenge will also help you conquer the temptation of impulse purchases!

  1. Set the parameters of what you’re willing to spend money on and what you want to cut out. Clearly outlining the rules—and putting them somewhere you’ll see often—will make sure you, and anyone else in your family who’s participating, stay on the same page and avoid “accidental” spending.

  1. Tell your friends and extended family about your goals and how you’ll be changing your spending habits. Sharing your spending parameters up front with loved ones will save you from spending out of shame or guilt because others around you are spending money. No one should feel they have to spend money to fit in or make others feel comfortable. It should be the time spent together that matters most, right?

  1. When you find a “want” you’d like to buy, write it down. See if at the end of the challenge you still want to purchase it. You might be surprised, in the end, how little you care about the impulse wants of three weeks ago! Alternatively, you can put the amount of money it would cost to make those purchases into a separate savings account so you can see at end of the challenge how much you would have spent. Then you can decide if you still want those things or if you want to apply the total saved toward something else.

  1. When you do decide to make a purchase (either within your parameters or because of an unforeseen circumstance), shop for quality over quantity. Find the things in your life that have quality and value over single-use and fast-fashion—the things you keep going back to, reusing, or hanging on to. Now find all the poor-quality items that serve a similar purpose and stop buying those things! Save up for quality and then repair them when possible.

  1. Use the timeframe of your challenge—whether it’s a week, a month, or a year—to clean out your stock of foods in the freezer and pantry. Now’s a chance to rotate out and use up items before they expire. It’ll save money on your grocery bill, too!

  1. Use the time during the challenge to clean out, purge, and organize the places that accumulate clutter and seldom-used items: garage, basement, attic, garden shed, closets, cupboards, and drawers. Now’s the chance to donate, throw away, and sell those lesser-quality items you’ve identified. This productive distraction from spending money could actually earn you some extra cash if you can sell your items!

Hopefully, at the end of it all, you will have reassessed your spending habits, modified your budget, decluttered your life, and found out what matters most to you.